Dedication to service, beautiful facilities highlight Tetrick Funeral & Cremation Services in Johnson City

By Greg Miller

   JOHNSON CITY -- The staff of the new approximately 15,000 square foot Tetrick Funeral & Cremation Services is what makes the facility so unique, according to general manager Bo Deaton.
   "They are a group of wonderful people," Deaton said. "All of them are dynamic Christians. The entire staff is committed to serving families in the very best way possible. Our goal is to assist them in the healing process. It's a privilege for me to be here with them."
   The staff at Tetrick's includes Assistant Manager and Funeral Director Robert Pickle, Funeral Director Vivian Cooper, Office Manager Laura Rhea and Pre-need Consultant Anna Deal.
   A native of Amory, Miss., Pickle began working in a funeral home at the age of 11. Pickle is a fourth-generation funeral director. He met his wife, the former Kitty Alexander, an Elizabethton native, in funeral school. His grandparents are from Bristol, Va.
   "This was almost like a second home," said Pickle. "We moved here after talking to Richard (funeral home owner Richard Tetrick) and praying about it. We decided that this was the opportunity that the Lord was leading us to take and we moved here in August."
   Pickle officiates high school football and baseball games, as well as Little League baseball games. "It's giving back to the community as a leader and also possibly as a mentor, so that you hope to have some influence on some of the youth that you interact with."
   The arranging room is among the funeral home's greatest assets, according to Pickle, who said the funeral home offers a variety of cremation options. "The room where our arranging room is would normally take up a full-size casket selection room. But within this, we show 14 quarter caskets that are hardwood, 14 quarter caskets that are metal, one full-size metal casket, one full-size wooden casket and the full-size caskets are on top of the two full-size vaults.
   Cooper, who lives in Johnson City with her husband Gary, recently retired as assistant principal at Elizabethton High School, where she had taught English and Spanish. "When I worked in Elizabethton for Mr. Tetrick in the middle '80s, I learned the funeral service business and developed deep respect and admiration for the professional manner with which he and his staff met the needs of the families they served. I am happy to now be a part of this important ministry."
   Cooper is impressed with the camaraderie "we have here and the special attention we have given our families. We are committed to give each family excellent service as they plan the best way to honor the life of their loved one, whether it be at-need or pre-need, and we provide everything involved in funeral services including monuments.
   "The new building is spacious and it has a special level of warmth for families," according to Cooper. "I think they feel comfortable," she said. "They forget they're in a funeral home. The facility is designed so we can have several events occurring at the same time, and one does not interrupt another."
   "I have the unique privilege of helping families with their funeral prearrangements," said Deal. Formerly a registered nurse for 26 years, she helps educate families through the process and helps them choose the options that best suit their needs. "Helping people think through how to best celebrate a life that was lived, not a life that has passed, brings personalization and a more meaningful way to help families and friends say good-bye," said Deal.
   "Planning is just a way of life. We plan for everything we do in life from education, weddings, purchasing a home, starting a family, retirement, even a spare tire for emergencies. Preplanning funeral arrangements just makes good sense," said Deal.
   "Most people are unprepared for making funeral arrangements because we do it so infrequently. The emotions surrounding us when dealing with the death of a loved one may cloud our judgment. Learning what is involved, taking care of decisions and providing needed information in advance takes you and your family out of this picture forever. It is a gift we do for our loved ones that shows how much we care about them. This is very gratifying for me to help families in this way."
   Like Cooper, Deal is impressed with the facility's comfort level. The fireplace puts everyone at ease," she said. "It has a warm personal appeal to it. From the formal chapel to the less traditional gathering area, we can accommodate our families' wishes. There is even a family lounge and a children's play area."
   The funeral home's layout is unique to most funeral homes, Deal said. "Less than 5 percent of all funeral homes in the United States are like this one, so it's a very unique opportunity for the people of Johnson City."
   Deaton said the new facility is a very beautiful and wonderful place if you need to be here. "We've had many comments about the facility, how beautiful it is," he said. "Comments like, it's comfortable, it's warm, it's inviting."
   Tetrick's has two chapels, Sunrise Chapel and Sunset Chapel. "Sunrise Chapel has more of a church setting, and we can probably seat about 200, maybe 220 people, if we use the family room in that chapel," Deaton said. "It's estimated that if we use Sunset Chapel and put chairs out to use that whole room for a funeral service, we can seat up to 350 people in there. We have folding doors, collapsible doors that closes that off into four different viewing areas. Or we can close off portions of it to have a smaller funeral, if they need a more intimate room."
   The facility, Pickle said, offers a variety of cremation options, and the crematory is located at Oakley-Cook Funeral Home in Bristol, Tenn. "Being affiliated with Heritage Family Funeral Services, we have our own crematory, so when somebody entrusts us with a loved one, they are in our care from the time of death through the arrangements and then services until we take them to the crematory and it's our own staff that handles the cremation process," Pickle said. "We will go to Oakley-Cook and pick up the deceased's cremated remains and bring them back here and get them back to the family or do whatever type of disposition that they want."
   "Laura Rhea, the office manager is the person that pulls us all together," said Deaton. "She is a very dedicated person who has a keen eye for details. In working together as a team, each person has their own unique personality that complements and encourages the other team members. We are very pleased Laura is on our team."
   Deaton is committed to service. "The main motivation in my life is the families we will serve," he said. "A beautiful community filled with beautiful people who in time of grief need love, encouragement and understanding. I believe the staff of professionals at Tetrick Funeral Services can give the families who come to us the help they need to stay strong and encouraged during their time of loss. We are committed to excellence -- serving friends and family with sensitivity, love and compassion."
   A Unicoi County native, Deaton has lived in the Johnson City area for 42 years. He is a graduate of Milligan College, East Tennessee State University and Bristol University. He is an ordained minister and member of First Christian Church, Johnson City. Deaton has a son, B. Eric Deaton, and a daughter, Kim Hyatt. He has two grandchildren, Morgan and Logan Hyatt.
   Tetrick Funeral and Cremation Services is located at 3001 Peoples Street. For more information, call 610-7171 or e-mail